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RoadOne looks for right mix to keep drayage drivers

RoadOne looks for right mix to keep drayage drivers
William B. Cassidy, Senior Editor | Oct 13, 2014 JOURNAL OF COMMERCE

Like many over-the-road trucking operators, RoadOne Intermodal Logistics is looking for the right formula to attract more truck drivers and keep them. However, in the drayage business that formula quickly becomes pretty complex, said Ken Kellaway, president and CEO.

RoadOne’s drivers are owner-operators, and unlike over-the-road truckload drivers they’re not typically paid by the mile. “More often they’re paid a percentage of the revenue per load or by time-zone rates, so they’ll get a flat rate to go to a particular market,” Kellaway said.

Compensation by the hour is becoming more common to cover time lost to drivers because of port terminal delays and extended loading times, Kellaway said. “We’re doing more and more of that,” he said. “The drayage driver can’t be responsible for assuming all the risk.”

Frustrated by port congestion and chassis shortages, drayage drivers increasingly are looking for other jobs both in and out of trucking, Kellaway said. That “outward migration” of drayage drivers and trucks threatens to slow shipper supply chains to a crawl.

Incentives are becoming a more prominent part of RoadOne’s recruitment toolkit, however. “These drivers are entrepreneurs, and like any entrepreneur they’re trying to figure out how to maximize profit,” he said. “We’re trying to help them with all the line items in their business.”

For example, RoadOne guarantees tractor financing for its drivers through a third-party leasing company, ENG Financial Leasing. The owner-operators aren’t required to have credit or a down payment, according to RoadOne, to take advantage of the financing offer.

“We’re also trying to help reduce their operating costs by leveraging our buying power on items such as fuel, license plates and insurance,” Kellaway said. “If we can get those prices down for them, we can help them reduce operating costs and maximize their profits.”

During National Driver Appreciation Week Sept. 15-19, RoadOne recruited 13 owner-operators at a two-day Driver Appreciation Open House at its headquarters in Randolph, Massachusetts. As part of a company awards program, owner-operator Idilio Taveres received a $15,000 grand prize one full year of truck payments. With 40 locations and more than 1,000 drivers nationwide, RoadOne plans to hold more recruitment events.

But drayage drivers need more than perks and incentives. They also need freight that provides a profit, Kellaway said. “We’re trying to be selective about the freight, to get the best-paying freight and the freight that’s easiest to handle for them,” he said.

“The drayage business is also notorious for high empty miles, as you’re bringing empty containers back to terminals,” he said. “We’re trying to find ways to increase their loaded miles so we can pay them more.” Shippers, the party that ultimately foots the bills, need to help too. “We’ve been successful in getting our premier customers to help us with these delay time issues so we can retain drivers,” Kellaway said. That help includes better container scheduling and advance pickup notice. “It’s working, but going forward, those are the customers who will really get our capacity, the ones who help support us.”